(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#2) Journey to Italy
Drama • dir. Roberto Rossellini • 1954 • Italy
I’m not much of a troublemaker, and to the occasional (perhaps even frequent) frustration of others am an incurable optimist. I try not to rock the boat – and can be relied upon, if it’s ever leaking, to be the guy who says, well, we’re nearly there so nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, there are one or two things, I admit, that drive me up the fucking wall. That blot out even the very sunniest of my sunny dispositions, with dark, rolling clouds. For instance, the dreary insistence of mainstream culture to keep on reducing everything film has to offer to one solitary thing: PLOT. How tiresome! Yes, cinema tells stories… but please let’s stop treating it like the village idiot who can only do one thing at a time. Cinema can say of itself, like Walt Whitman once did, I am large, I contain multitudes. And the rest of us, hopefully, will one day stop reading that most wretched of things, the plot synopsis. (Want to know what happens in a film – try watching it!)
Voyage to Italy is the story of a married couple on vacation and in crisis. But it’s so much more, as well! At different times, both man and wife, together and apart, seem the principal object of attention; at other times, neither are (instead: the ashen remains of Pompeii… the Phlegraean Fields… the Fontanelle cemetery). It’s not indifference – just life going on its way, enigmatic, impossible to contain and difficult to fathom. And it’s filmmaking at its most generous, not orbiting endlessly round stars (even one as iridescent as Ingrid Bergman) but making them and their characters our equals: imperfect, like us, incomplete, like us, changing and changeable, like us… voyagers, like us. They matter, but not exclusively. We get to know them, but not definitively. Through it all Voyage to Italy is that rare film more in love with the world than with itself; open and outward-looking. Forget ‘before’ and ‘after,’ forget ‘incidental’ and ‘integral’ – Roberto Rossellini’s is a cinema of feeling, place and time. Where passers-by don’t form a meaningless background but a vital part of the whole. Where the human heart always bounds beyond our running after knowing it. And where first and final frames don’t ever start or stop the world from rushing by.